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Italy sinks Spain in shootout

We haven’t yet done everything we need to though, there is still one step to go.

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Italian players celebrate the team’s win over Spain. / CARL RECINE/Agence france-presse

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Italy beat Spain 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in a magnificent Euro 2020 semifinal at Wembley on Tuesday, as Jorginho converted the decisive kick to take the Azzurri through to the final of a tournament in which it has been the outstanding side.

They were not always on top in this game though, with Spain the better team for long spells of an epic contest before Federico Chiesa, the Juventus forward, gave Italy the lead with a fabulous finish an hour into a match watched by a crowd of almost 58,000.

The much-maligned Alvaro Morata, who was dropped from the starting line-up, came off the bench to equalize with 10 minutes of normal time left.

No further scoring in extra time meant penalties again for Spain, which had beaten Switzerland in a shoot-out in the quarterfinals.

They had also beaten Italy on penalties at Euro 2008, but this time misses from Dani Olmo and then Morata saw Spain give up the advantage they had been handed when Manuel Locatelli failed with the first kick in the shootout.

The Italians celebrated at the end with a large contingent of their UK-based supporters, and a team that has been rejuvenated under Roberto Mancini continues to dream of winning a first European Championship since 1968.

Now unbeaten in 33 games, they go through to Sunday’s final to face either England or Denmark, who meet in Wednesday’s second Last Four tie.

“I have to thank the players because they believed right from day one that we could do something incredible,” Mancini said.

“We haven’t yet done everything we need to though, there is still one step to go.”

It is nine years since Spain mauled Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev to win a third consecutive major tournament, and this was the fourth consecutive Euro in which these powerhouses had met.

Spain won the first two of those meetings, but the last two have now gone to Italy.

“It is not a sad night for me by any means,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique.

“We can go home knowing we competed and were among the best teams.”

This meeting took place in the chill of a damp July evening in London, but the atmosphere at Wembley was no damp squib.

There were no traveling supporters, given the obligatory quarantine for all visitors to the United Kingdom.

However, the large Spanish and Italian communities already in Britain meant a combined 20,000 fans of the two teams were in the 57,811-crowd allowed inside Wembley.

They added a noise and color so sadly lacking at major sporting events since the pandemic began, and that provided the perfect stage.

The football itself was absorbing and of the highest quality, particularly in midfield where Italy’s outstanding trio of Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella met their match in Spain’s Sergio Busquets, Koke and the brilliant Pedri, a frightening talent at just 18.

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